13620 - Indology (1)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Anthropology, Religions, Oriental Civilizations (cod. 8493)

Learning outcomes

Through this course students will acquire a knowledge of the culture of ancient, medieval and premodern India. They will be able to contextualise what they have learnt within the historical framework (also with reference to the relevant literature) and will acquire the ability to communicate it properly and effectively in oral and/or written formats.

Course contents

a) Course description. The course examines ancient and medieval Indian culture in its various philosophical and religious articulations, the social institutions, the castes, gender differences. The course introduces students to the literary history of ancient and medieval India, and offers an outline of the history of India from the origins to the present time.

b) Main topics. The main topics discussed in the course are:

  • introduction to the course; India between prehistory and history: the Hindus Valley civilization and the arrival in India of Indo-Aryan clans (Indo-European language speakers) (2 classes);
  • the Vedic period, i.e. the Vedic literature, society, gods and religion, with special reference to the śrauta ritual (3 classes);
  • Buddhism and Jainism (2 classes);
  • the transition from Vedism to Brahmanism and Hinduism (1 class);
  • the great Indian epic and Puranic literature: itihāsa and purāṇa (2 classes);
  • the goals of human beings (puruṣārtha) and the manualistic literature of the trivarga (2 classes);
  • the gods of Hinduism and the avatāras: introduction to Epic and Puranic mythology (1 class);
  • the Tantric phenomenon (1 class);
  • Indian art literature (kāvya), with special reference to the Indian theatre (nāṭya) (1 class).

c) Seminar module (optional). All students (attending and non-attending) can optionally take the Moodle course on the History of Indic Scripts (asyncronous e-learning). The course is intended as an introductory overview on the origins and developments of the Indian writing systems, i.e. how the great variety of scripts that are used today in India came gradually into being during the centuries. Since a basic knowledge of the political and cultural history of ancient and medieval India is needed to take this Moodle course profitably, it will be made turned on in December, towards the end of the main Indology course, and will be available until the end of January. The Moodle course is in English and requires an average of 8–10 hours for completion. This activity is optional, but its completion will contribute positively to the student's assessment at the exam. (More information below, under "Teaching Methods".)

During the first class, an overview of the course topics will be provided.



All the volumes listed below are available at "Giorgio Renato Franci" library, via Zamboni 33, as well as in other libraries in Bologna.

Required readings for the exam (attending students):

  • Boccali, G. - Pieruccini, C., Induismo. Milano: Electa, 2008.
  • Franci, G.R., Il buddhismo. Bologna: Il mulino, 2004.
  • Piano, S., Lineamenti di storia culturale dell'India antica. Torino: Libreria Stampatori, 2004, solo Parte I, pp. 15–54.
  • Piretti, L., Lezioni di Indologia. Bologna: Pàtron editore, 1999, solo Parte II, pp. 105–159.
  • Kulke, H. and Rothermund, D., Storia dell'India. Milano: Garzanti, 1991 / Città di Castello: Odoya, 2019, chapters 1 to 4 inclusive.

Required readings for the exam (non-attending students):

  • Boccali, G. - Pieruccini, C., Induismo. Milano: Electa, 2008.
  • Filoramo, G. (a cura di), Hinduismo. Roma/Bari: Laterza, 2007, pp. 1–245.
  • Franci, G.R., Il buddhismo. Bologna: Il mulino, 2004.
  • Piretti, L., Lezioni di Indologia. Bologna: Pàtron editore, 1999, ony Part II, pp. 105–159.
  • Kulke, H. and Rothermund, D., Storia dell'India. Milano: Garzanti, 1991 / Città di Castello: Odoya, 2019, chapters 1 to 4 inclusive.



All students (attending and non-attending) are invited to read the following short volume, as an introduction to Hinduism and the Indology course at large:

  • Franci, G.R., L'induismo. Bologna: Il mulino, 2000.



Indian texts translated into Italian. In the "Virtual Learning Environment" area two documents are available ("Letture.pdf") which contain a short anthology of Indian texts translated into Italian.

Optional readings on specific subjects:

On Indian history:

  • Torri, M., Storia dell'India. Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2000.
  • Kulke, H. - Rothermund, D., Storia dell'India. Milano: Garzanti, 1991.
  • Wolpert, S., Storia dell'India. Milano: Bompiani, 1985.

On Indian literature:

  • Boccali, G. - Piano, S. - Sani, S., Le letterature dell'India. Torino: UTET, 2000.

On Buddhism:

  • Gnoli, R. (a cura di), La rivelazione del Buddha. Vol. 1: I testi antichi. Vol. 2: Il Grande veicolo. Milano: Mondadori, 2001–2004.

On Jainism:

  • Dundas, P., Il jainismo: l'antica religione indiana della non-violenza. Roma: Castelvecchi, 2005.
  • Della Casa, C., Il Giainismo. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1962.

On Tantras:

  • Padoux, A., Tantra. Torino: Einaudi, 2011.

For further bibliographical suggestions, contact the teacher.



Teaching methods

This teaching participates in the University's didactic experimentation project according to the 'Integrative Digital Didactics (DDI)' model (see below, under Teaching tools).

Main course.
The course consists of taught classes. The teacher will regularly use Power Point slideshows and, occasionally, pdf files (for text readings), audio files, movies, questioning softwares.

Although not mandatory, attendance is recommended.

Lessons won't be recorded.

Seminar module (optional).
The Moodle course on the History of Indic Scripts (asyncronous e-learning) will be made available in December in the "Virtual Learning Environment" area (see also above, "Course contents"). The course will be available during December and January.


Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

The exam is oral, and lasts approximately 30 minutes.

The exam consists of three questions:

  • A question on the political history of the Indian subcontinent;
  • A question on Indian culture in the wider sense, that is on Indian religions and cults, literatures, philosophies and thoughts;
  • A question on iconographic identification: students have to recognise the figures and/or the legendary episode depicted in an image chosen by the teacher among those contained in the volume Induismo, edited by G. Boccali and C. Pieruccini.

If desired, students can choose the topic of one of the first two questions.

Grading is based primarily on student's preparation, but will also take into account her/his ability of analysis and synthesis, clarity in exposition, and use of an appropriate language.

Broadly speaking:

  • An organic vision of the topics discussed in the course, the capacity for critical analysis, and the use of a precise and appropriate language will be evaluated with excellent to good marks;
  • A mnemonic knowledge of the subject, a limited ability of analysis and synthesis, and the use of an acceptable but not always accurate language will be evaluated with decent to average marks;
  • Incomplete knowledge of the subject and/or poor analysis and synthesis skills and/or the use of an inaccurate language will lead to mere pass marks;
  • Poor preparation, lack of familiarity with the bibliography of the course, use of inappropriate language will lead to exam failure.



Teaching tools

This course participates in the Integrative Digital Teaching plan of the Innovative Teaching Project of the University of Bologna.

During classes students will be invited to participate in Questioning activities, i.e. rounds of interaction through Wooclap (https://www.wooclap.com/).

Students can avail themselves of questionnaires aiming at verifying their understanding of the topics dealt with in the course. The questionnaires have been created using Wooclap's "Participant Pace Questionnaire", which allows students to answer questions asynchronously; for each of the main topics of the course, a questionnaire will be provided, comprising around 10 questions of different types (Multiple Choice Questions, Sorting, Find on Image, Matching, Fill in the Blanks etc.). The questionnaires are available in "Virtuale"; although they are intended primarily for non-attending students, attending students are also encouraged to use them.

The media files used in classes will be made available to students. Small files (such as pdf documents and Power Point slideshows) will be uploaded in the "Virtual Learning Environment", while the URLs of larger files (such as audio and video files) will be provided.

This teaching offers a seminar module built in Moodle (see above, "Course Contents" and "Teaching methods").

Office hours

See the website of Marco Franceschini


Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.